In 2014, Urban Meyer settled all family business.
Fast enough? Check. Tough enough? Check. Beat the rival? Check. Avenge last year's biggest loss? Check. Conquer an SEC team? Yep, got that, too. And finally there was the national championship game, another emphatic affirmation of the depth and quality of a team that had turned into a true juggernaut by the time all was said and done.
The Buckeyes enter 2015 in a new world order, but there is time to worry about that later.
For now there is only celebration -- and appreciation.
The way it played out was certainly unexpected, but Ohio State's national championship season also feels like it went pretty much according to plan. The plans were grand, to be sure, but let's forget how we got to the point Meyer and his team were showered in confetti Monday night in North Texas.
Four years ago the behemoth that is Ohio State football had a power vacuum, and one of college football's foremost power brokers was without a throne. The match seemed like a perfect one when it was made, and now we see that has turned out to be true.
Meyer has checked off every box on the long list of plans and expectations that was created when he came to Columbus, including goals set by himself and those on the outside.
While seeming to maintain a better work/home life balance, Meyer has continued to win.
Some worried -- probably rightfully so -- if a dialed-back Meyer could weave the same magic in Columbus he did in Gainesville, where his work ethic was regarded as maniacal. Others thought he would simply burn out again, maybe sooner than later. The former concerns were alleviated early when he wasted virtually no time putting together a couple of elite recruiting classes and his first Ohio State team went undefeated, but they crept back in late last year as Meyer's team stumbled in the Big Ten Championship Game and the Orange Bowl. The latter seems less likely every time he's spotted with his family reveling in another big win and every time he reminds reporters and his players alike to take time to enjoy the moment.
That 2012 team had some deep flaws but was deep in character. The sanctions that hit the program were part of a perfect storm that produced an unforgettable year, one that might not have had such a happy ending if it included a higher level of competition -- especially at the end -- but instead went into the history books. They were tested just enough to make memories that will last a lifetime.
Meyer still credits the seniors on that team for first deciding to stick around when they could have transferred and then laying the groundwork for the program he wants to have in place.
That first team validated the Meyer way for players in the program, and it got people around the country thinking he still had it when it comes not only to recruiting but player development -- an under-appreciated aspect of elite coaching at any level, but especially college.
The old Meyer playbook -- both in terms of offense and building a team -- worked like a charm on a team that was new to him, but some cracks started to show last year. The 2012 team thrived on adversity in games, but the 2013 squad wasn't quite the same. The latter group also, it must be said, faced a pair of teams better than anyone on their predecessors' schedule, and they crumbled in some of the biggest moments.
That caused some soul searching in the program, some rearranging of jobs and priorities, but all of the changes served to point the Buckeyes back in the ultimate direction Meyer desired.
The result was a national championship season that validated Meyer's approach and the strength of the program all over again.
The 2014 Buckeyes were a perfect mix of youth, talent and mettle. Sometimes they didn't know what they didn't know, and that is kind of what a coach like Meyer wants. He preaches going hard for 4-6 seconds and worrying later about the results, something that tends to be innate. Let the feet go before the eyes can make the brain worry too much, something that gets harder as the brain gets more full over the years.
Meyer's mandate to make sure every unit on the Ohio State team was pulling its own weight in 2014 turned into incredible production at some spots from which not much was expected, including the rebuilt offensive line and the previously disappointing receivers. Then of course there were the near miracles worked at quarterback, but those have been covered ad nauseam already.
The 2014 Buckeyes were a product of Meyer's ability to bring in some of the best prospects in the country along with others who aren't so highly coveted and getting both groups to play the same way.
That's a pretty good trait to have when it comes to coaching college football, and one now validated three times with the ultimate reward at two different places.
Meyer called bringing a national championship to the state of Ohio surreal Monday night, but that is just what he said he wanted to do when he was hired in November 2011.
Not only did Meyer do it his way, he slayed some representative of nearly every dragon Ohio State has faced in recent memory. He reversed the SEC curse he himself put on Ohio State and got payback against Nick Saban. He beat Michigan again, and he put Michigan State back in its place after the Spartans' one year on the throne. Meyer even trounced a Wisconsin team that had a mini-dynasty going during the Buckeyes' down years, and he proved his Buckeyes can win with speed or power -- any way you like.
It was an ascendance unlike any other, one nearly perfect in how it came together.
The only things missing, of course, were a big out-of-conference win and a record that was actually spotless, but hey -- there's always next year.
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